Sooke Hills: Parks, Peaks, and Rain Forest

Trees on rock, roots on rock, moss on rock

One of my favourite stretches of forest can be found along the Galloping Goose Trail from Sooke to the trail's northern terminus at the gold mining ghost town called Leechtown. The Goose runs along the western edge of a 12, 000 hectare protected wilderness.

In the vast expanse of wilderness covered by a patchwork of parks, one can find pockets of old growth, as well as individual old growth trees. Along the old rail right of way is no different, plus the access is excellent on the wide, flat, gently sloping trail.

In the area one can also find Roosevelt elk, wolves, black bears, bald eagles, and cougars.

Cedar, Douglas-fir, and Hemlock are major rain forest trees

"The Sea to Sea Green Blue Belt is a corridor of protected wilderness and parkland stretching from Saanich Inlet in the east to the Sooke Basin in the southwest. 

Lands extend from Saanich and Tod Inlets to Sooke Basin (north to south), and from the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park Reserve to the Sooke River (east to west). The protected area covers approximately 11,500 hectares, making it the largest protected area in the CRD. 

It includes provincial, regional and municipal park land, including Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, Goldstream Provincial Park, Sooke Mountain Provincial Park, Sooke Potholes Park, and Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park Reserve."

There are many amazing moss species that live here

A variety of peaks, such as Mount Manuel Quimper, afford the energetic hiker amazing 360 degree views of the huge protected area, plus out over the ocean. Mt. Quimper has an old forest fire lookout structure at the summit. It can be handy on a windy or rainy day.

This beautiful hike can be accessed from the Harbourview Road parking lot.

View from Mt. Quimper looking south east over the park and Juan de Fuca Strait

In the early days the rail line went all the way through to the Lake Cowichan area. It hauled equipment and supplies from Victoria in to towns and lumber camps, then turned around and hauled huge logs out.

In spring seasonal brooks are full, as is the thick, spongy moss

Along this route there are many individual old growth trees that escaped the saws that took most of their contemporaries years ago.

While there are no record-breaking trees here that I know of, there are some nice sized Douglas-fir, Western red-cedar, and Western Hemlock. Sitka spruce can be found along the ocean, and along valley bottoms closer to the sea.

Moss and lichen cling to everything, including a Western red-cedar
Any time is a good time to hike or bike into the Sooke Hills Park rain forest. Whether you are cycling the Galloping Goose Trail, or hiking up Harborview Road, there are enough parks, peaks, and rain forest areas to keep you exploring for a lifetime.

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